Percussive Massage and Jigsaw Massage Therapy for Athletes

Many athletes inevitably find out that excelling in a certain sport or activity is much deeper than pure physical exertion during performance days. Regular recovery and massage therapy enable athletes to consistently perform at high levels, while simultaneously reducing the risk of injury and making the recovery process more pleasant.

The athlete’s body is a finely tuned machine that requires regular tune-ups. At the highest professional levels, athletes even have entire teams devoted to their muscle recovery and rehabilitation. Lebron James, who is seemingly playing better in his mid-30s than he did at the traditional peak basketball age of 26-29, spends a whopping $1.5 million per year on his body and recovery.

When it comes to recovery for the average athlete without millions to spend per year, routines still generally involve a mixture of stretching, physical rehabilitation, and massages like percussive and jigsaw massage.

Today, we’ll be focusing on the benefits of percussive and jigsaw massage, and why they are excellent tools in the arsenal of any athlete.

What is Percussive and Jigsaw Massage Therapy?

Percussive massage is a technique that makes use of rapid soft blows from each hand, and a jigsaw massage is the same concept but with a jigsaw modified with a human-friendly massage head. It’s one of the five Swedish massage strokes that include effleurage (sliding or gliding down the length of the muscle), petrissage (kneading out particular “knots”), friction (across fiber or alongside fibers), and vibration/shaking.

These massages consist of relatively short and even sequences, and recent studies have found that percussive massage therapy can treat muscle fibers up to 30 times more effectively than other traditional forms of massage.

If you’ve ever had a massage, your masseuse or therapist likely performed some part of a percussive massage. Have you ever been laying on your stomach on a massage table and your massager “tapping” you with a closed fist, fingers, the edge of their hand, fingertips, or their hand in a cupping pose at rapid, even, and light to medium intensity. That’s a percussive massage!

Now, instead of a masseuse, imagine a similar rhythm and even motion, but with a gadget like a jigsaw massager.  You may have yet to experience a massage from a jigsaw, but with the recent spike in popularity due to advancements in the products and technology, you most likely aren’t far from enjoying one. The jigsaw is fitted with a massage head that is designed for percussive-like impact.

Percussive and Jigsaw Massage for Athletes?

These techniques aren’t meant to wage war with the muscle through impact. The rapid and even sequences help stimulate the nervous system, nudging it to release and flush lymphatic buildup and lactic acid buildup. For people that exercise at high levels of intensity, this lactic acid part is huge.

Lactic acid, best known for its nagging burning sensation in muscles being utilized, plays a critical role in our body’s energy production. When you need the energy to fuel the current task at hand, whether that’s a sprint or a brisk walk, the lactic acid in your cells metabolizes itself into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a process known as the anaerobic lactic energy system where energy is produced without oxygen.

When an athlete starts operating above the anaerobic threshold (around 80% to 90% of the athlete’s maximum heart rate), they’ll start to feel that annoying burning sensation that sometimes comes with limited muscle coordination or movement. Contrary to how it feels, lactic acid is not a demon toxin, but it surely isn’t a pleasant experience.  

Some studies have found that jigsaw massage and vibrational therapy can lead to a decreased accumulation of lactic acid in the blood by stimulating better blood flow.

Regular percussive massage sessions, whether done by a traditional masseuse or physical therapist, or through a Jigsaw Massager, can help joint stiffness, reduce pain, and improve muscle function.

Hitting Those Trouble Spots

No matter what sport you play, you’re bound to have some muscle groups that are exerted substantially more than others. If not carefully tended to, you run the risk of not only injuring those specific muscle groups but also building significant muscular imbalances that put your whole body at risk.

Hamstrings, for example, are almost universally bombarded from all forms of exercise that involve sprints. Whether that’s football, basketball, track, tennis, cycling, and MMA, your hamstrings cannot be neglected. To perform a jigsaw massage on your hamstrings, you would simply run the jigsaw massager up and down the hamstrings slowly (it should take 20 to 30 seconds to go from one end to the other).

Shoulders are also a big problem area for a lot of athletes since many sports involve a repetitive motion that favors one shoulder muscle sub-group over the other. These imbalances cannot be solved simply by doing regular massages and you will have to train your weaker muscles appropriately, but Jigsaw Massage is a great tool to minimize the risk of throwing your shoulder out.

Final Thoughts

Muscle recovery for athletes is much more than simply just feeling less sore the next day. Even a minor injury can derail a top athlete from their path to greatness and many unfortunate injuries could have been avoided with the right sort of recovery, guidance, and rehabilitation. However, the bills for muscle recovery and rehabilitation can add up quickly. That’s why many athletes and personal trainers are turning to jigsaw massage therapy for high-level regular recovery at a fair price.